Podcast Deep Dive: Samantha Hessell

My name is Samantha, and maybe you’ve listened to the WYM podcast episode featuring myself and Maddie, one of my Innovation Team members.  We were so excited to share about the role that innovation and story and intergenerational relationships have played in our church.  Those three things have been so transformative for our congregation.  I could talk for hours about their importance!  Or for 40 minutes which is I think about how long that episode lasted…

When the episode dropped I listened to it and felt proud of Maddie and our team and then I facepalmed.  I talked about those innovative elements I am so proud of, but I only sort of mentioned our actual innovation.  Oops! 

Thankfully this blog exists and I can follow up!

What we realized is that intentionality is key in forming the depth of relationships we want to see in our church

We were part of an innovation process through the Center for Youth Ministry Training’s Innovation Lab (as were Kat Bair and Caroline Strong, mentioned in other episodes). This process of innovation was very specific and we, along with nine other churches agreed to follow it completely…and all 10 of us had very different results. It was such an intentional process, and what we realized is that intentionality is key in forming the depth of relationships we want to see in our church – whether we are intentionally creating spaces for relationships to deepen or intentionally being willing to make connections or listen well to others – being intentional matters. CYMT laid out a prescribed plan, we followed it, even when it got hard and frustrating, even when we were tired of it, even when we didn’t really want to, we were accountable to it, and the growth came.  Our innovation then became 5 guiding principles that we invited our church and its leadership to adopt – to guide all the work that we do, trusting the intentional process and where it can take us.

  1. Look for opportunities to commune with fellow church members. This may be a small and simple conversation, or involve taking advantage of a large audience. Being willing to share and willing to listen is key. 
  2. Promote the bridge between generations in order to fill gaps that exist. Encouraging intergenerational activities and interactions promotes and fosters relationships throughout the congregation.
  3. Incorporate the invitation for fellowship into activities to allow for the natural development of sharing.  Be intentional about allowing fellowship to create natural sharing opportunities among church members. 
  4. Be intentional about determining the success of intergenerational sharing. This can be accomplished by various methods of observation and will allow for future planning. 
  5. Ensure that the vision of each mission opportunity aligns with the original purpose of the Innovation Team and is in accordance with the ideas behind the theological rocks (relationship, story, purpose) established by the team.

I get it.  Those Guiding Principles may not seem like much.  But as the youth pastor, a team leader, a lay leader, an elder, etc in our church, the intention is that we sit them next to everything we do in the life of the church and use them to guide us…intentionally.  And when you’re attempting a culture shift, intentionality will go a long way in helping you get there.  

As Heather says, “Innovation is turning a problem into a possibility…an obstacle into an opportunity.”  So what problem or obstacle do you notice that the Holy Spirit and a heap of intentionality could shift into possibility and opportunity? 

Samantha Hessell
Samantha Hessell

Rev. Samantha Hassell has served the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as a Christian educator and youth pastor for over 20 years.  She is a graduate of Bethel College (B.A.) and holds a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry from Memphis Theological Seminary.  Samantha served as a Lead Innovator in the Center for Youth Ministry Training’s Innovation Lab and she and a team from the Sturgis Cumberland Presbyterian Church learned together what innovation looks like in youth ministry and beyond. Samantha has been a contributing writer for Faith Out Loud, Feasting on the Word, Growing in Grace and Gratitude and was the writer of the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium Small Group Manual. She and her husband, Rev. Victor Hassell, have three children.

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